I have been busy in the Esoteric Library this week. I’ve just finished editing, reformatting, and upgrading the unbearably adorable illustrations, for A.A. Milne’s not- about-bears book Once On a Time.
What a delight! Milne says in his preface that it’s really much his favorite work, and I don’t blame him.
Forthwith, an excerpt; a little tale told by Hyacinth, Princess of Euralia, to Wiggs, her special friend (possibly her own lady-in-waiting, the history books are not quite clear).
“Which is stronger,” Wiggs asked, “you or a Fairy?”
“I knew you were going to ask something horrid like that,” said Hyacinth, pretending to be angry. She looked quickly round to see that nobody was listening, and then whispered in Wiggs’s ear, “I am.”
“O—oh!” said Wiggs. “How lovely!”
“Isn’t it? Did you ever hear the story of Father and the Fairy?”
“His Majesty the King of Euralia. It happened in the forest one day just after he became King.”
Did you ever hear the story? I expect not. Well, then, you must hear it. But there will be too many inverted commas in it if I let Hyacinth tell you, so I shall tell you myself.
It was just after he became King. He was so proud that he used to go about saying, “I am the King. I am the King.” And sometimes, “The King am I. The King I am.” He was saying this one day in the forest when a Fairy overheard him. So she appeared in front of him and said, “I believe you are the King?”
“I am the King,” said Merriwig. “I am the King, I am the——”
“And yet,” said the Fairy, “what is a King after all?”
“It is a very powerful thing to be a King,” said Merriwig proudly.
“Supposing I were to turn you into a—a small sheep. Then where would you be?”
The King thought anxiously for a moment.
“I should like to be a small sheep,” he said.
The Fairy waved her wand.
“Then you can be one,” she said, “until you own that a Fairy is much more powerful than a King.”
So all at once he was a small sheep.
“Well?” said the Fairy.
“Well?” said the King.
“Which is more powerful, a King or a Fairy?”
“A King,” said Merriwig. “Besides being more woolly,” he added.
There was silence for a little. Merriwig began to eat some grass.
“I don’t think much of Fairies,” he said with his mouth full. “I don’t think they’re very powerful.”
The Fairy looked at him angrily.
“They can’t make you say things you don’t want to say,” he explained.
The Fairy stamped her foot.
“Be a toad,” she said, waving her wand. “A nasty, horrid, crawling toad.”
“I’ve always wanted—” began Merriwig—”to be a toad,” he ended from lower down.
“Well?” said the Fairy.
“I don’t think much of Fairies,” said the King. “I don’t think they’re very powerful.” He waited for the Fairy to look at him, but she pretended to be thinking of something else. After waiting a minute or two, he added, “They can’t make you say things you don’t want to say.”
The Fairy stamped her foot still more angrily, and moved her wand a third time.
“Be silent!” she commanded. “And stay silent for ever!”
There was no sound in the forest. The Fairy looked at the blue sky through the green roof above her; she looked through the tall trunks of the trees to the King’s castle beyond; her eyes fell upon the little glade on her left, upon the mossy bank on her right . . . but she would not look down to the toad at her feet.
No, she wouldn’t. . . .
She wouldn’t. . . .
It was too much for her. She could resist no longer. She looked at the nasty, horrid, crawling toad, the dumb toad at her feet that was once a King.
And, catching her eye, the toad—winked.
Some winks are more expressive than others. The Fairy knew quite well what this one meant. It meant:
“I don’t think much of Fairies. I don’t think they’re very powerful. They can’t make you say things you don’t want to say.”
The Fairy waved her wand in disgust.
“Oh, be a King again,” she said impatiently, and vanished.
Download or read the book online ; Once On a Time